I didn’t exactly have the greatest first pregnancy. I had constant infections, a gall bladder full of stones they couldn’t remove, and stretch marks that made my stomach resemble something that had been attacked by a lion. She arrived as healthy as she could be though. It was 3 years later when the stick had a plus sign on it again. I really had a form of PTSD following my first pregnancy. (I’ve Googled it before, they are starting research into mothers with painful deliveries suffering from PTSD). My current self, post-second baby laughs at my former self, post-first baby.
I knew something was wrong this time around. From the very beginning my instincts were on point. My husband was really excited and wanted to tell everyone. I asked him not to because it was so early and I knew something was wrong. We had taken the test as early as it could read and I was about 4 weeks pregnant. We actually ended up fighting about it because he was so overcome with joy and I felt nothing but fear. I remember distinctly telling him “Stop being happy, something is wrong.” Who does that? Who tells their awesome spouse to stop being happy? I was such a bitch about it. (Eventually I was right, but at the time, I could have chosen my words better).
I called the doctor and they didn’t really see patients until 7 weeks but I knew I had to get in sooner. I called over and over and told them that something just felt wrong and eventually I said that I was having cramps. Finally, the OB ordered blood work and it came back with dangerously low progesterone levels. She said that my body would miscarry without supplementation. So I started on hormone supplements for 4 weeks. I had an ultrasound at about 8 weeks and it was the cutest thing ever. It looked like he was waving at me. I went home and felt better about everything than I had since it started. Then I woke up at 3am gushing blood.
I was sitting in the bathtub sobbing. I knew I was losing the baby. I just knew it. I remember saying to my husband “I finally allowed myself to love it. I love it. It can’t die.” He called the OB’s emergency line and she told us to go to the ER if we wanted to or we could let the baby pass at home. We chose to go to the ER after dropping our older child off with my parents. It was a very scary drive. I had stopped bleeding though and that was a good sign. They did an exam and my cervix was closed and then they did an ultrasound and there was a heartbeat. The baby just didn’t move much. This entire story happened again at 12 weeks. The bleeding just started during the day instead of at night. Heartbeat good, baby just not moving much.
I decided to switch OBs and get to one a little closer to home (even though it was still an hour drive). We found out we were having a boy. But, my blood pressure started creeping up with each visit. The second trimester was fairly uneventful other than the impending feeling of doom I constantly felt. By the third trimester, my blood pressure was concerning enough to warrant a weekly ultrasound. Each one was uneventful, he was big and didn’t move much. At my 38 week ultrasound they found that the cord was wrapped around his neck twice, possibly a third time and the OB felt it was time to induce. So we scheduled for a few days out.
We checked in on a Thursday morning and I was prepped. We were going to go through with the natural delivery since the doctor felt confident it was the safer option and he could unwrap the cord during delivery. They had set up a nice area for the baby to stay in our room after the delivery. During labor the baby started to show signs of distress. They had me lay on my side to help blood flow but it was not improving. The doctor came in and decided to break my water. I had dilated and was progressing well. He broke my water and what started out as a gush of liquid became pulses of liquid. The doctor told the nurse “We have a lot of blood here” and then he muttered some other things quickly. He put his hand on my leg and said “You’re going to have a C-section now.” Then he ran.
Nurses started appearing from everywhere. Everything happened very fast after this. I remember a nurse telling my husband that he wouldn’t be able to go in because they were going to have to put me to sleep. They started pushing my bed as fast as they could towards the Operating Room. It’s cold in there. There were at least 20 people in the room once they got me in there and only 3 minutes could have passed since I started gushing blood. I’ve always been good at reading people. During a job training I was certified in micro-expressions, the study of people’s emotions as shown on their face. As I looked at the 20 something people scrambling around my hospital bed in this very cold operating room, I’ve never seen so many faces plastered with fear before in my life. I knew then that I was in trouble. The anesthesiologist had put the oxygen mask over my face and told me I would be asleep soon.
I prayed. I told God that my husband couldn’t make it without me. And I couldn’t make it without this baby.
Looking back now I realize that my instincts and my faith in God are the only reasons my son and I are alive today.
I had a button that administered some pretty nice medication after surgery. That nice medication made everything awful blurry after that. What I can tell you is from the accounts of my husband, the doctors, and my medical records. I suffered from a rare pregnancy complication called Vasa Previa. When undiagnosed, it is almost always fatal to the infant. Because we didn’t know we had Vasa Previa at birth, my son had a 5% survival chance. Think of an umbilical cord as like an electrical cord. Without that protective covering, it would just be exposed wires. Vasa Previa is like having exposed wires and the amniotic fluid (the water) is all that kept it intact. Once the wires were exposed, all blood is lost from the baby. I was officially diagnosed later with Ruptured Vasa Previa, Placenta Previa, and Placental Abruption.
The amazing medical professionals got my son out within 11 minutes of the rupture. He had lost approximately 90% of his blood volume. He had no heartbeat. The nurses compared his color to that of an ashtray or a white sheet. It is unclear how long he had been dead. They started CPR and immediate blood transfusions, it took 5 minutes for my son to hold his own heartbeat without manual assistance. My husband saw the nurses rushing him out of the OR to the NICU and was able to see him briefly. Two nurses were manually breathing for him. One pushing air in and the other pressing his belly to get the air out.
I had pinned so many thing to my Baby Board on Pinterest before all this happened. I knew exactly what I was going to do differently this time to breastfeed accordingly. I had a better breast pump. We had the crib ready. We were excited for boy things and not so much pepto pink. I had different types of bottles and pacifiers and diapers and wipes and diaper genie refills. We were ready…
After my 24 hours of medicine magic button ended, it was time for me to go visit my son. The nurses had removed the nice little area in our room at some point. That was thoughtful of them. My son was born exactly one week before Christmas. So there were Christmas decorations everywhere. A little jingle plays in the hospital each time a baby is born. I wondered if they played the jingle for my son since he was kinda born dead.
You have to put on little gowns and rub your hands with a disinfectant that has a smell that you could never forget. We could only touch him with gloves. When I saw my son for the first time he was beautiful. But I couldn’t breastfeed him like I wanted to because he was being fed through tubes attached to where his umbilical cord would have been. He was swollen and very pale. I knew my life was never going to be the same.
Welcome to NICU.